The double reed was probably used at first, being the simplest form of mouthpiece; the word zeugos, moreover, signifies a pair of like things. There is, however, no difficulty in accepting the probability that a single beating reed or clarinet mouthpiece was used by the Greeks, since the ancient Egyptians used it with the as-it or arghoul (q.v.).
(Drawn from a photo by
Fig. 2. — Roman Ivory
Aulos found at
Mus.) showing slides
The beak-shaped mouthpiece of a pipe found at Pompeii (fig. 3) has all the appearance of the beak of the clarinet, having, on the side not shown, the lay on which to fix a single or beating reed. It may, however, have been the cap of a covered reed, or even a whistle mouthpiece in which the lip does not show in the photograph. It is difficult to form a conclusion without seeing the real instrument. On a mosaic of Monnus in Trèves is represented an aulos which also appears to have a beak-shaped mouthpiece.
The upper part of the aulos, as in the Pompeian pipes, frequently had the form of a flaring cup supported on a pear-shaped bulb, respectively identified as the holmos (ὄλμος) and the hypholmion (ὑφόλμιον), the support of the holmos. An explanation of the original nature and construction of the bulb and flaring cup, so familiar in the various representations of the aulos, and in the real instruments found in Pompeii, is provided by an ancient Egyptian flute belonging to the collection of G. Maspero, illustrated and described by Victor Loret. Loret calls the double bulb the beak mouthpiece of the instrument, and describes its construction; it consists of a piece of reed of larger diameter than that of the flute, and eight centimetres long; this reed has been forcibly compressed a little more than half way down by means of a ligature of twine, thus reducing the diameter from 6 mm. to 4 mm. The end of the pipe, covered by rows of waxed thread, fits into the end of the smaller bulb, to which it was also bound by waxed thread exactly as in the Elgin pipe at the British Museum, described below. There is no indication of the manner in which the pipe was sounded, and Loret assumes that there was once a whistle or flageolet mouthpiece. To the present writer, however, it seems probable that the constricted diameter between the two bulbs formed a socket into which the double reed or straw was inserted, and that, in this case at least, the reed was not taken into the mouth, but vibrated in the upper bulb or air-chamber. This simple contrivance was probably also employed in the earliest Greek pipes, and was later copied and elaborated in wood, bone or metal, the upper bulb being made shorter and developing into the flaring cup, in order that the reeds might be taken directly into the mouth. During the best period of Greek music the reeds were taken directly into the mouth and not enclosed in an air-chamber. The two pipes were kept in position while the fingers stopped the holes and turned the bands by means of the φορβεία (Lat. capistrum), a bandage encircling mouth and cheeks, and having holes through which the reed-mouthpiece passed into the mouth of the performer; the phorbeia also relieved the pressure of the breath on the cheeks and lips, which is felt more especially by performers on oboe and bassoon at the present day.
(From a photo by Brogi.)
Fig. 3. — Beak
mouthpiece. Found at
In the pair of wooden pipes belonging to the Elgin collection at the British Museum, one of the bulbs, partly broken, but preserved in the same case as the pipes, was fastened to the pipes by means of waxed thread, the indented lines being still visible on the rim of the bulb. The aulos was kept in a case called sybene (συβήνη) or aulotheke (αὐλοθήκη), and the little bag or case in which the delicate reeds were carried was known by the name of glottokomeion (γλωττοκομεῖον). Two Egyptian flute cases are extant, one in the Louvre, and the other in the museum at Leiden. The latter case is of sycamore wood, cylindrical in shape, with a stopper of the same wood; there is no legend or design upon it. The case contained seven pipes, five pieces of reed without bore or holes, and three pieces of straw suitable for making double-reed mouthpieces.
Aristoxenus gives the full compass of a single pipe or pair of pipes as over three octaves:—“For doubtless we should find an interval greater than the above mentioned three octaves between the highest note of the soprano clarinet (aulos) and the lowest note of the bass-clarinet (aulos); and again between the highest note of a clarinet player performing with the speaker open, and the lowest note of a clarinet player performing with the speaker closed.”
This, according to the tables of Alypius, would correspond to the full range of the Greek scales, a little over three octaves from to . It is evident that the ancient Greeks obtained this full compass on the aulos by means of the harmonics. Proclus (Comm. in Alcibiad. chap. 68) states that from each hole of the pipe at least three tones could be produced. Moreover, classic writers maintain that if the performer press the zeugos or the glottai of the pipes, a sharper tone is produced. This is exactly how a performer on a modern clarinet or oboe produces the higher harmonics of the instrument. The small bore of the aulos in comparison to its length facilitated the production of the harmonics (cf. Zamminer p. 218), as does also the use of a small hole near the mouthpiece, called in Greek syrinx (σῦριγξ) and in the modern clarinet the “speaker,” which when open enables the performer to overblow with ease the first harmonic of the lowest fundamental
- For a description of the reed calamus from which pipe and mouthpiece were made see Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. iv. 11.
- Aeschines 86. 29; Aristotle, H. A. 6, 10, 9, &c.
- Lucian, Harm. 1.
- Cf. article Mouthpiece.
- See Antike Denkmaler, Deutsches archäol. Inst., Berlin, 1891, vol. i. pi. 49.
- See “Les Flûtes égyptiennes antiques,” Journal asiatique, 8th ser. vol. xiv. (Paris, 1889), pp. 212-215.
- See Aristotle, De Audib. p. 802 b, 18, and p. 804 a; Festus, ed. Mueller, p. 116.
- See Albert A. Howard, op. cit. p. 29, and Dr Hugo Riemann, Gesch. d. Musik, Bd. i. T. 1, p. 111 (Leipzig, 1904).
- Pollux, Onomasticon, vii. 153.
- Pollux ii. 108, vii. 153, x. 153-154; A.A. Howard, op. cit. pp. 26-27. An illustration of the little bag is given in Denkmaler des klassischen Altertums, by August Baumeister, vol. i. p. 554, fig. 591.
- Two Egyptian pipes now in the Louvre were found in a case ornamented with a painting of a female musician playing a double pipe. See E. de Rougé, Notice sommaire des monuments égyptiens exposés dans les galeries du Louvre, p. 87.
- See Victor Loret, “Les Flûtes égyptiennes antiques,” in Journal asiatique, vol. xiv. (Paris, 1889), pp. 199, 200 and 201 (note), pp. 207, 211 and 217, and Conrad Leemans, Description raisonnée des monuments égyptiens du Musée d’Antiquités de Leyde, p. 132, No. 489; contents of case Nos. 474-488.
- Aristoxenus, Harm. bk. i. 20 and 21, H.S. Macran’s edition with translation (Oxford, 1902), p. 179.
- Aristotle, De audib. p. 804a; Porphyry, ed. Wallis, p. 249; ibid. p. 252.
- Zamminer, op. cit. p. 301.